The light box
Nicolau Nasoni, a Florentine painter-architect, dominated the mid-18th century cultural scene of Porto through his many interventions in the city and its surroundings. Among the palaces, churches, gardens, and villas, the largest of them all, in terms of the area to be transformed, was the restoration of the Quinta da Prelada, a walled estate with a surface area equivalent to that of the walled city itself. There, Nasoni designed gates, obelisks, fountains, gardens, a maze and the longest baroque axis in the Iberian peninsula, now severed by the city’s inner highway and with its first half now transformed into city streets. Half-way through this axis (where the growing city met with what was left of the estate), sat the abandoned half-built ambitious renovation of an earlier house.
Two and a half centuries later, the Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto, a five-century-old charity, tightly quartered in the city centre, and inheritor of the estate, decided to properly house and give public access to its archives by renovating the house and its immediate surroundings. António Leitão Barbosa, the architect commissioned with the difficult task of creating a new image for an old and mutilated building, inside an older, mutilated estate, now owned by an even older, respectable institution, carefully steered his team in interpreting the long history of the site and the specificities of the programme. The strategy was to carefully renovate what had withstood the test of time, accepting the difficult complex the house had become
after its many owners and uses. To mark its new function, and the definitive transition from private to public space, a new volume is posed in striking contrast with all the pre-existing elements. The materiality of the new volume addresses the centuries-long tradition of additions to the fabric of Porto, using the newest light material at hand – wood, slate, corrugated metal and now, glass – to expand the limits of the pre-existing space, creating an oversized lantern (another typical feature of the fabric of Porto) that shines from within the ruins to shed light on the several
histories that cross paths at this site: that of an institution that runs a programme, that of a building that provides a context and that of a specialised window-making company, which always lends a hand when designers need solutions for their ideas to shine.
Location Porto, Portugal
Client Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto
Architecture António Leitão Barbosa – R31J Arquitectos
Authors António Manuel Rosas, Leitão Barbosa
Collaborators Rui Gonçalves, Teresa Novais, João Fernandes e Luísa Menezes, aNC
Landscape Marta Cudell
Architectural survey Jaime Campos
Historical study Joel Cleto
Javier Galarza, André Nascimento; Empatia Arqueologia conservação e restauro Lda.
Study and survey of the state of Conservation and Artistic Production Techniques Paulo Ludjero,
Eng. Miguel Figueiredo; Crere – Centro de Restauro, Estudo e Remodelação de Espaços Lda
Structures and Hydraulic Installations António Monteiro,
Márcia Agostinho, Tânia Matos; A400 Projetistas e Consultores de Engenharia Lda
Mechanical installations: Raul Bessa, Telmo Mesquita; GET – Gestão de Energia Térmica Lda
Electrical Installations and Code Consultancy João Paulo Rocha; Síncrono Soluções integradas de Engenharia Lda
Building rehabilitation EMPRIPAR, obras públicas e privadas S.A.
Exteriors A. Ludgero Castro Lda
Building rehabilitation José Falcão; Enescoord Coordenação e Gestão de Projectos e Obras Lda
Exteriors André Camelo; AfaPlan Planeamento e gestão de projeto